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At 4:29 PM Pacific today, Doc Brown and Marty McFly will arrive in modern day Hill Valley. So said Back to the Future Part II in 1989.
Back in the day, Back to the Future Part II was not nearly as popular as its predecessor or its successor. Mainstream audiences considered Part II too dark, too cerebral compared to the others. Frankly, I always thought most people didn't understand the movie's internal logic of branching timelines. It seemed strange to me that audiences would embrace one time-travel movie and reject its sequel. In hindsight, I don't think they love the travel as much as they loved the time.
As much as I enjoyed the original — I can still quote most of that movie from memory — I preferred Part II. It was easier for me to relate to the sequel's future of 2015 than the original movie's past of 1955. Nineteen Fifty-Five passed 20 years before I was born. It might as well have been 1885 or 1555. The original movie presented an artificial world, like a museum display come to life. People didn't really dress/act/live like that, did they? My parents definitely never made out in parked cars.
It wasn't until Part II came along and treated the 1980s with the same level of nostalgic reverence that its precursor had reserved for the '50s that I could understand what the franchise was really selling. I knew the '80s. To see the decade venerated by the people of the future, that seemed appropriate. No doubt that's what my parents' generation must have appreciated in the 1950s references of the original. I still couldn't relate, but I could understand.
Now to think that Marty McFly's "present" is 30 years in my past! I can look back and still see the 1980s as clear as though I was living in them. That means that kids today have just as hard a time relating to my past — with its coin-operated arcades and Zubaz striped pants — as I did to my parents'. It's almost too bad they won't be getting a Back to the Future Part IV to help them understand me. You kids get your flying cars off my lawn!
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